June 17, 2020 / 6:23 PM / 18 days ago

Honduran president hospitalized for COVID-19, treated for pneumonia

TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) - Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, is undergoing treatment in hospital for pneumonia after he tested positive for COVID-19 this week, the government said on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: Honduras' President Juan Orlando Hernandez speaks during a joint message with U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) acting Secretary Chad Wolf (not pictured), at the Presidential House in Tegucigalpa, Honduras January 9, 2020. REUTERS/Jorge Cabrera/File Photo

Francis Contreras, a spokesman for Honduran health agency SINAGER, said that while Hernandez needed specialized medical care in a military hospital, including receiving medicines via intravenous drip, he is generally in good health.

The health news is a fresh blow to the 51-year-old Hernandez, who has come under increasing pressure at home as one of his brothers was swept up by a drug trafficking probe in the United States which has threatened to engulf him too.

“His general health status is good,” Contreras told reporters outside the military hospital. However, he said X-rays of Hernandez have revealed lung problems.

Hernandez’s wife, Ana Garcia, also tested positive for the coronavirus, along with two presidential aides, but has not presented any symptoms of the disease, Contreras said.

A significant number of politicians and officials worldwide have contracted coronavirus, but very few heads of government are known to have tested positive. The most prominent exception is British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was hospitalized with the virus in April and later recovered.

When Hernandez announced his positive diagnosis on television late on Tuesday, he said the symptoms were mild and he was feeling better. While his doctors recommended rest, he said he would work remotely and through his aides.

The Central American country has ordered strict containment measures and confirmed nearly 10,000 coronavirus cases and over 300 deaths due to the COVID-19 disease caused by the virus.

But not everyone has obeyed the lockdown and the figures likely undercount the full impact of the pandemic.

President since 2014, Hernandez has cut an increasingly polarizing figure since the Supreme Court struck down a law that allowed the conservative ally of the United States to run for re-election.

His subsequent re-election in late 2017 was marred in controversy due to a heavily disputed vote count that was widely called into question by international observers.

Last year, a U.S. federal court in New York convicted his brother, Tony Hernandez, for drug trafficking in a case that helped galvanize opposition to the president.

In April, the president’s office issued a denial that Hernandez himself was mixed up in drug trafficking after U.S. prosecutors pointed the finger at him in bringing drugs charges against a former chief of Honduran national police.

Reporting by Gustavo Palencia; Writing by David Alire Garcia; Editing by Dave Graham and Alistair Bell

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